14 Birthday Traditions from Around the World

Birthday Traditions from Around the World

A few years ago, a Cup of Jo reader told us that many adults in Germany throw their own birthday parties. How cool and empowered is that? Curious about other countries, we asked readers on Instagram to share their traditions, and they revealed 14 cool ways to celebrate (what would you add?)…

SPECIAL CAKE

“In the U.K., lots of people buy caterpillar cakes (log-like chocolate cakes covered in frosting with eyes and a mouth at one end). The national supermarket Marks and Spencer sells them. They’re very nostalgic and incredibly British. — Elspeth

“In Brazil, we eat brigadeiros, which are chocolate balls covered with sprinkles. They’re the best. We also clap non-stop while singing happy birthday.” — Gisela

GIFTS

“Where we live in Holland, the birthday boy or girl usually gives a simple bouquet of flowers to their mother. It makes sense, since mom did all the work to make a birthday happen in the first place.” — Sarah

“In Hong Kong, we don’t like giving out watches/clocks as gifts as they symbolize the passing of time, meaning that you’re getting closer to death!” — Jessica

TIMING

“My family has a very sweet tradition in India. You wake up the birthday person at midnight with cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ My cousins and aunts and uncles all did it for me, and it’s such a lovely memory.” — Niha

“In Argentina, we call or text the birthday boy or girl when his or her birthday begins, at midnight exactly.” — Alexia

HOSTING

“As the birthday boy/girl in Italy, you get to pay for EVERYONE! So, I’ll let you imagine how expensive it gets when you go out with a lot of friends. But other than that, it’s a blast of a celebration.” — Francesco

“In the Netherlands, people greet each other at birthday parties by expressing congratulations. So, you introduce yourself and say, ‘Congratulations on the birthday of Anna,’ even if it’s a neighbor or friend. And then that person says congratulations back.”

“In the U.K., it’s normal NOT to serve cake at kids’ bday parties, but instead stick a slice in a napkin and put it in the goody bag to take home, so you arrive home with a smushed piece of cake stuck to a napkin. It drove the American expat moms bananas.” — Melissa

SYMBOLS

“Food in Chinese culture has very symbolic connotations, and during birthdays we like to eat longevity noodles (yi mian, or 伊面) and longevity buns (sao bao, or 寿包) to represent long lives. The noodles are super long egg noodles which you slurp up in one go — we try not to cut them up because it means that you’re cutting your life short! As for the longevity buns, they’re fluffy buns shaped like peaches and stuffed with lotus paste and sometimes egg yolks. In Chinese folklore, peaches were said to have been consumed by immortals. Of course, these are more traditional celebrations practiced by the older generation, and nowadays most people my age tend to just celebrate with cake and a nice meal out — but I hope to be able to pass these traditions on to my future children, not only because I would like them to appreciate their culture, but also because the food tastes so good!” — Jessica

NOSES

“I grew up in Nova Scotia, and growing up, we got the dreaded ‘buttered nose’ on our birthdays. Basically, a family member would sneak up on you and cover your nose in butter. The sneakiness of the ‘attack’ was usually coordinated with attempts to catch it on camera! It’s said that your buttered nose should bring you good luck for the coming year as nothing bad would be able to ‘stick’ to you.” — Kimberley

EARS

“In Argentina, ear pulling is really common, especially with kids. You pull one or both ears as many times as years the person is turning, and you add an extra one for good luck. You also receive coscorrones, which are knuckle taps in the head. They can hurt a lot, so thankfully that practice has been going out of style.” — Alexia

DECOR

“Danes are very into our flag and we use it for every festive occasion — especially birthdays. We’ll decorate tables and cakes with various sizes of our flag. If you have a flag pole in your backyard, you’ll raise it in honor of the birthday child or the very least put paper flags outside your house for the neighborhood to see.” — Kathrine

“In the Netherlands, it’s traditional to decorate the house with ‘slingers’ (garlands) and balloons on birthdays — this starts young and continues into adulthood. It’s not a birthday without slingers!” – Anna

P.S. What it’s like to parent around the world, including Turkey and Japan.

(Photo by Bettmann.)

  1. Sigrid says...

    Wait, throwing your birthday party as an adult is an “uncommon” thing? Hm…. This was an interesting blogpost! Love from Norway.

  2. Karen Carey says...

    Haha, Colin the Caterpillar cake! When I turned 35, I had a terrible day at work (a vile cover lesson I had to take for a colleague who’d gone home ill; and the sudden arrival of my period that was so like a murder scene that I had to go home and change my trousers). A bit rubbish to say the least. But when one of my closest friends came round that evening with a Colin the Caterpillar cake, it literally saved the day. Because Marks and Spencer’s foodhall is a bit spendy, so getting stuff from there is quite a treat.
    When I was a kid, everyone used to give you the bumps (push you onto your back, people would take one of your limbs and throw you up in the air for the number of years you were celebrating. It was quite exhausting when I turned 44, let me tell you ;) – is that still a thing?

  3. Jillian Murphy says...

    I’m from PEI, Canada and we butter noses too! It’s our favourite!!

  4. Anna Cohen says...

    At work in Denmark, we needed to bring in our OWN birthday cake to share with our colleagues. It was unusual for me as I’ve been used to being treated on my birthday. But this way, at least I would choose the treat!

  5. lomagirl says...

    In Colombia, we smashed an egg on the birthday person’s head, and sometimes sprinkled flour on top of that. No idea why!
    We learned to watch out for the egg smasher from the corner of our eye all day long.

  6. Caitlin Hannahan says...

    haha, wait in the US you are not suppose to organize your own birthday party!? Why has nobody told me this after all these years?!

  7. Erin says...

    Swedes sit the birthday honoree down in a chair and then everyone else stands on THEIR chair to sing to you! The birthday song always ends with a hurrah, times four. I was visiting a high school class there and when they discovered it was my birthday a few dozen teens dutifully stood on their chairs and sang to me, a favorite birthday memory.

    • Sofie says...

      Oh, what a sweet memory. As a Swede it’s so fun to hear someone else’s impression of this. I actually never have reflected on what we really do, chair standing och hurrah-ing. :) Thank you.

  8. Maureen says...

    A birthday tradition we started for our girls is getting up early before they wake up and baking cinnamon rolls and tea in fancy tea cups. We blow up light up balloons and then we sneak in their bedroom with the food on trays and start singing happy birthday really quiet and get louder and louder until they wake up. We have a picnic on a blanket on their floor and they absolutely love this tradition.

  9. Sarah says...

    Omg! I grew up in Nova Scotia and completely forgot about the buttered nose thing! Brings back memories :)

  10. Hazel says...

    Not really country specific but my sisters and I have started a sweet tradition of taking ourselves out for afternoon tea whenever one of us has a birthday. It’s the perfect excuse to try out the hottest new brunch place in town and fete ourselves three times a year, haha. One sister was based overseas for the longest time so it’s amazing to have her back.

    Unfortunately I have had the weirdest streak of bad luck on my milestone birthdays, on the actual date. On my 30th a beam broke off the plaster ceiling in my bedroom and fell, right while I was sitting under it! No lie, it almost cracked my skull open. As it was the wound was gushing blood and I ended up looking like a Walking Dead extra and spent the day in the ER getting stitched up! THEN in the wee hours of my 40th I was getting into bed with the lights off when I stubbed my big toe against the bed frame, hard. It hurt like a mofo but I didn’t think it was that serious until I turned on the lights and saw my toenail sticking out at a 90-degree angle and all the blood. ALL THE BLOOD. I wound up in the hospital in pain, AGAIN. Finally my BFF and I decided I had to be out of the house, somewhere, anywhere, on my actual birthday. So now we’ve started going on road trips for my birthdate. Fingers crossed 🤞🏼 it’s been working so far!!!!!! Knock on wood!!!! I hope to continue this tradition for as long as we possibly can.

  11. Maria says...

    In Denmark we are big on birthday songs. Even at work, we sing a birthday song everytime a colleague has a birthday. It really brings out the child in all of us – you can see the light in the birthday girl/boy’s eyes.

    • Anna says...

      Sooo true, birthday are HUGE in Denmark. At my workplace (a school) if it was a ‘special’ birthday – it was such a big deal – a whole school assembly, the birthday person carried about on a chair and then a fully catered lunch (organised by the birthday person) with wine :) And then back to teach our students!

  12. Paisley says...

    Growing up in Canada we had a few birthday cake traditions / superstitions:

    1. During cake cutting, the birthday kid has to cut the first slice. When it gets to the bottom everyone screams as loud as they can (was this just us!?)

    2. When the birthday person cuts the cake, if the knife comes out clean after cutting the first piece, it’s good luck!!

    3. The birthday person blows out the candles. However many candles are left burning is how many “boyfriends or girlfriends” you have 😂

    And there ya have it! 🎂🍰✨

    • Christina says...

      Oh! In Sweden we say that if the slice of cake you get remains standing, you will get married during the coming year. If it falls, you will not.

  13. Maïa says...

    So interesting! And can we talk about birthday anecdotes ?
    When I turned 30, we organised a big party with a girlfriend who was the same age.
    When I opened the presents of my flatmates, with everyone around us, I found : A mirror…and a bathroom scale. I was so embarassed at first and then we all laughed of the “clumsiness” of it.
    It turns out that one of the boy just lost weight, and as we didn’t have a scale in the house it felt for him like an occasion to have access to one. The other one was like : “You see its not something to offer to women! I told you!” ;’)
    Years later I still tease them with this story!

    • kat says...

      this made me laugh! oh boys…that’s a great thing to have over on him!

  14. Sally says...

    WHOA! I thought my crazy Alabama family were the only ones buttering noses on birthdays! I am floored to see somewhere else carries on the same tradition. We say that it’s in order to “slip through” the next year without any problems ;)

  15. Rukmini Das says...

    That’s so interesting. Bengali’s in India (I’m not sure if others do it, too) have the same ritual of the plate with a book, pen, money, and rice. I’m not sure if there’s a lipstick, but I think some beauty product is also there. So fascinating how similar traditions are found in different parts of the world!

  16. Maria Anagnostopoulou says...

    We sing the english “Happy Birthday” but we sing also a greek song with different melody wishing “to become very old with white hair and very wise”!

  17. Maria Anagnostopoulou says...

    Till the end of 2nd World War the Greeks celebrated only their namedays. They went to the church and then they had a big feast with food and wine with all their relatives and all their friends. No cake, no candles, no birthday song. These came eventually with the British and American soldiers during the liberation from the nazis, the spring of 1945. Now everybody celebrates its birthday anglosaxon style!

  18. Caroline says...

    If you are unmarried in Denmark when you turn 30, you will be called a “pepper maiden” or a “pepper bachelor” and you will be gifted pepper in different variations. It can be simple as in being given a normal pepper milL as a gift or your friends will build a huge version of a pepper mill out of oil cans and place in front of your house, which you then have to figure out how to get rid off. You are also at risk of being showered with pepper all day. Some parts of Denmark do similar for 25, but just with cinnamon – which I imagine is very uncomfortable to be showered with!

  19. Kay says...

    Growing up in Kuala Lumpur circa 1980s-1990s, I can say that there wasn’t really one dominant birthday custom — it all depends on which city/culture/socio-economic class you came from. For instance in secondary school (high school for Americans), in my experience KFC was a very popular hangout for birthday get togethers!! Lol. It was very much pay your own way, except that the birthday boy or girl would be treated to their KFC, plus a cake or cupcake, by the rest of the gang. Later in uni at a different state, I discovered that a lot of friends from smaller towns also had birthday parties in KFC a lot, haha.

    In primary school (elementary for Americans) in the 80s, kids would be super excited to get invited to a birthday party at the local McDonald’s! I know I was! A friend from Borneo later told me that McD’s hadn’t even made it to their shores in the 80s so it was seen as doubly exotic to them. Ditto Toys R Us and that earworm jingle “I don’t wanna grow up/I’m a Toys R Us kid”…

    My most memorable birthday party had to be my 18th, when I got to invite kids from my new school over and we all had a blast doing very bad karaoke and stuffing ourselves silly with the literal feast my awesome family had prepared for us (yes they were around but out of sight, haha). Guy friends were forever reminiscing after that about the incredible food at my party and how much fun they’d had! Another fun highlight — when one of them disappeared from the party and we wondered where he’d got to, only to discover he’d accidentally locked himself in the bathroom and couldn’t get out, but hadn’t wanted to yell for help out of sheer embarrassment. (This was in the days before cellphones!) Well the door had to be broken down to rescue him so there was no escaping the embarrassment!! 🤣🤣🤣 Luckily my family was totally chill about the property damage, lol. Best party ever!

  20. Maria says...

    Haha! I´m German and I just had that moment: “what, people don´t throw their own birthday party in the US?” What about england? For me, when it´s your birthday, you invite people over, bake cake and have a party. They bring gifts. How do you have a birthday party in the US?

    • Sarah says...

      We’re the same in Australia- we do our own parties- unless it’s a surprise.
      for kids, there is a famous cake book, the women’s weekly birthday cake book, in the 80s it was hugely popular to chose your cake from the book, (it was “working mum friendly” as it recommends packet cake mix) – they rereleased it a few years ago so now another generation can choose the miss piggy cake or the swimming pool cake!

  21. Mara says...

    Interesting timing re throwing your own birthday party! I am 38 and the last time I had this was when I was like 12, thanks to my mom’s planning. My birthday is coming up and lately I’ve been feeling sad about how no one has ever thrown a party for me since – my friends haven’t thought to do it. But if I want a party, I should just throw one for myself! And all the haters I know who think only losers do this can go take a hike ;)

    • Miri says...

      How do you not do this in the States? It’s mind boggling to me. Why would you not want to be in charge of your own party? Go, celebrate yourself! It’s not lame, it’s the best.

  22. Gerrit says...

    The flower thing is absolute nonsense. I haven’t ever even heard of it. And my dad loves flowers so much he would use any excuse to buy them… or make us buy them for my mom.

    • marleen says...

      same here, I grew up in north holland and I’ve never heard of anyone doing that!

    • Laura says...

      haha I’m Canadian and I’ve never heard of the butter nose tradition! I guess some of these are maybe family traditions rather than traditions in that country?!

    • Judith says...

      Haha I had the same thought Gerrit :) But they got 2 out of the 3 Dutch references right (congratulating all other party guests with the birthday girl/boy + hanging garlands as decoration throughout adulthood seem very common at least).

    • Robin says...

      Ha ditto on the butter. I like the flower idea, though. A midwife friend wished me “happy birth day” when my first was one or two and now I always wish moms happy birth days as well as wishing the birthday kid well. It is such an incredibly powerful memory and milestone, it’s nice to acknowledge it. My own 42nd birthday is coming up – I’m thinking I will get my mom some flowers. A little late but better than never!

    • NJ says...

      My best friend’s father is Dutch, and he’d taught us a different version of that, I guess? On our birthdays, according to his tradition, the birthday kid should congratulate their mom, and friends and family also congratulate the parents for their kid. Because of him I always congratulate and thank her my mom and buy her some nice chocolates on my birthday <3

  23. Amelia says...

    This is so sweet and such a cool post idea! But I have a question about the opening paragraph – don’t most adults in the U.S. throw their own birthday parties?? What is the alternative? Do many people have a partner or friend plan their birthday? I would find that so stressful haha

    • Catherine says...

      I wondered that, too. I don’t think “empowered” is the right adjective here?

    • MJ says...

      Yeah I found that such an odd premise. Not particular to Germany…

    • Kim says...

      From living in Germany a few years ago I know that if you go out to dinner for your birthday, the person having the birthday pays for everyone’s dinner. I find in the US it’s often the other way around. But this way it’s usually a smaller group of people you really care about and want to be generous with.

  24. These comments are so wonderful! I love celebrating birthdays and miss having my nearest-and-dearest within arms’ reach lately. I send food delivery to the birthday person — sometimes a dozen donuts, sometimes their favorite sushi. Whatever will make them feel cared for, especially in this pandemic!

    In Vietnamese culture, on a baby’s first birthday, we set a plate in front of them with common household objects: a pen, a book, money, lipstick, a piece of sticky rice. The baby gets to choose from those objects, and their pick is said to determine their future interests in life (pen signals an interest in scholarly pursuits, money equals material success, rice equals a love of cooking, etc.). My family doesn’t take the premonition aspect too seriously, but it’s still a fun tradition.

    On her first birthday, my daughter picked the pen for her first birthday; thirty-five years ago on my first birthday, I picked out the book. I love that coincidental little echo.

  25. Katherine says...

    I’m American, but I don’t think this is an American thing, just unique to me- we celebrate Thanksgiving on my birthday in August (in addition to regular Thanksgiving in November.) I love a holiday that’s all about expressing gratitude, being with family, and eating good food. I’m getting sentimental just thinking about how grateful I am for my loved ones, and so appreciate being able to make my birthday into a true family celebration of love.

  26. Denise says...

    I’ve thrown my own birthday brunch / open house for the past two years. No gifts please, just bring something to share, and stay all day! We all love brunch so much, we take waaaaaay too long at a restaurant. It’s so much more fun to have it at home.

  27. NW says...

    Growing up as an expat in SE Asia I had both the British smushed napkin-cake and the Aussie fairy bread. There was also usually a platter of ‘party rings’ (branded iced biscuits) on the table, which I am pleased to still see at kids’ parties today!

    On my mother’s SE Asian side my cousins would have a shop-bought cake (covered in lurid frosting and styrofoam-like roses, oh how we loved it!) and would usually be given money, to be put away for the future. There weren’t really ‘parties’ though relatives did drop by to see the child. It’s only our children who have been given lots of wrapped gifts and parties.

    • Kay says...

      Oooh I remember those styrofoam-like flowers! Usually set on really, really thick layers of hard white frosting with ultra red accents on store-bought cakes. A very common feature of my childhood but I never liked the taste of them. For that matter I was never even 💯 sure that they were edible at all, although my mom said they were!

  28. Kari T. says...

    For mine and my sister’s February birthdays (5 days apart, so usually a joint celebration) we always had all of our friends over and my grandpa would hook up the horse team and take us all for a rowdy sleigh ride. It was customary to pull a couple of toboggans behind the sleigh which invariably resulted in kids falling off and having to make mad dashes to hop back on. This was just a family tradition that I miss so much now as an adult. We lived in Saskatchewan, Canada.

  29. Max Bennett says...

    I grew up in the north of England where it was traditional to give you ‘the bumps’ on your birthday. People at your party or your family would grab a limb and bump your butt on the ground for how many years old you are! Its unheard of here in New Zealand but my kids friends love it when we do it at my kids parties!

    • LinaSwiss says...

      We did that in Canada too. You lined up at school and the birthday child crawled under everyone’s legs as everyone swatted their bottom! Lots of ‘bruises’ after a class of 30 in my day….

    • maria pereira says...

      We did this growing up in India too… :D

  30. Agnès says...

    I’m half mexican and LOVE mexico’s birthday traditions: the brithday song, las mañanitas is lovely and long enough that every body can sing it and you get emotional and the piñata is the best! We live in France so we’ve been making homemade piñatas for our son’s brithday every year and it’s the best. About the german tradition of inviting your friends for your birthday party, isn’t what people do every where? we do that in France aswell.
    Happy birthday every one!

    • Shira says...

      In my high school Spanish class, we learned las mañanitas and all had to perform it. I still remember it – I think it’s so lovely! I visited a friend in Sevilla, Spain, who was studying abroad in college, and I sang it for her host family, and I remember the father being so shocked! And a couple of years ago, I was eating at a Mexican restaurant in Philly, and it was someone’s birthday, and a group of waiters sang it! I was so happy to be able to sing along. ❤️

  31. Lauren says...

    I’m seeing some slander on these comments about Colin the Caterpillar and I will not allow it! Colin is no 1! When it’s your birthday you get to eat his face! It’s both weird and great! Tastes like the supermarket cakes of my childhood which I think is where the nostalgia lies. I always get a Colin. Now you can get Connie the caterpillar, which is white and pink. I think they misunderstood what more female representation really means.

    • Liv says...

      Love a Colin the Caterpillar! Even the face eating bit, which is weird now I think about it… Although normally it was a Victoria Sponge as didn’t have Colin around when I was little. We always got him at the local shop not an M&S, so maybe that’s just where the OG poster got theirs. Also party rings, pink wafers and hula hoops (best eaten off your fingers)

  32. Sarah says...

    I’m British and people always organise their own birthday party / gathering. Do people in the US have friends and family who organise what they are doing on the birthday?

    • Kate says...

      As a Canadian I can advise that yes, we typically do not organize or plan our own birthday celebrations. Usually your friends or partner take you out and do the inviting and deciding where to go/what to do. For example, this year my best friend let me know he intended to do a bar crawl downtown and the planned guestlist. I threw in my two cents about the venue and guestlist but the organizing was all up to him. And nobody let me pay for a single drink :)

      I hadn’t realized that this is unusual. But I think it’s a nice way for your friends and family to show that they want to celebrate your existence. Though it seems the Europeans might have more self-confidence when it comes to their own bday parties!

    • .S. says...

      Another Canadian here, but I came to say the opposite! In my experience friends and family would typically only plan someone’s birthday if it was a surprise party for a champagne birthday (i.e. turning 16 on the 16th) or a ‘big’ birthday (i.e. 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, etc).

      Other than that you would plan it yourself, though you might have help from friends or a partner – and it’s quite common to ask someone (beforehand) what they’ll be doing for their birthday, which I’m now realizing might imply an assumption that they would know/are organizing! But like Kate mentioned, it was ‘traditional’ that if you went out somewhere the birthday person wouldn’t pay for meals, drinks, activities, whatever the festivities entailed – friends and family would split the birthday person’s portion, or one guest might cover it all as a birthday gift.

      I’m so curious about the different geographic/socio-economic/cultural/generational factors that are affecting everyone’s answers!

    • Susannah says...

      Another Canadian here :) I would say it’s more common for people to not plan their own party. (Maybe this is a generational thing..? I’m in my 40s). While plenty of people still do – or put in their 2 cents to friends or partners – I think it is seen somewhat as a measure of your loved ones’ caring for you to plan a party in your honour. And yes, very common for others to pick up the tab for the birthday person, which would make it a bit awkward to plan your own.

    • Laura says...

      This is such an interesting thread, because I am also Canadian and echo what .S. said–that I think it’s very normal to plan your own party unless it’s one of those milestone birthdays! Maybe it IS a generational thing?? (I’m in my early 30s.)

  33. Antonia says...

    This post could not have come at a better time! My 30th birthday is coming up and I am totally paralyzed and unable to decide on what to do/who to invite etc (I’m German and therefore throw my own party ;-) ). This happens every year! I love my birthday and being celebrated yet somehow I also have such fear that my party will be boring and people won’t have fun at all and nothing to talk about… Can anyone relate to this? How do you cope?
    (My current plan is to invite a few close friends and do the 60-dollar-dinner that Jenny posted a few months back. Then read every single post on ice breakers etc. on CoJ and hopefully find a non-weird way to incorporate them into the party… Heaven help!)

    • Sylvia says...

      Hi Antonia,
      a little late to the party (haha) but wanted to encourage you to celebrate. I hestitate every.single.year. By the moment I decide to celebrate Im going through ..phases…. But the moment people show up I am so glad!!! Time with your friends is never boring. And let me tell you I had parties with something between three and thirty friends in my kitchen. I know its difficult right now in Germany but do it. My birthday was at the end of july and everybody showed up with their own blanket and a drink in the park. And after now years of getting very differnt people together they enjoy seeing eachother and catching up!
      Best of wishes!

  34. Emma says...

    A crucial detail about the M&S caterpillar cake is that it’s called Colin The Caterpiller. Everybody loves a Colin! I had one as a surprise for my 30th birthday when my best friend busted one out at the restaurant we went to!

    • Kimberley says...

      Yes! I was thinking the same thing…not just any old caterpillar cake…Colin! (gaah I miss being able to have Colin for my birthday now I live in the Netherlands) x

  35. Frances says...

    In Australia it is not a kids Birthday party with out Fairy Bread. It is as simple as a freshly sliced loaf of white bread, buttered then coved in cake sprinkles and then cut into triangles.

    • Maggie says...

      mmmmm. As an American expat in Melbourne, I was so surprised by how tasty Fairy Bread is! And the Fairy Bread flavour at Messina – omg. So good.

  36. Katy says...

    I’m disputing the UK caterpillar cake – sorry! Definitely not a thing here. It is for some who shop at M&S I guess but it’s for sure not something that is the norm for UK birthdays. Got to put those rumours to rest right?!

    • Kathryn says...

      UK here, too – I will say that whilst I don’t think I’ve ever had my own birthday Colin the Caterpillar, I have eaten a lot of slices of Colin the Caterpillar and would not be disappointed for that to be the cake at a party! I think it has acquired a bit of a cult status in recent years – the knock off Aldi one is called Cuthbert, and you can buy mini-roll sized ones as well as bride/groom ones – and a lot of people would picture immediately what one is. Potentially regional (north west for me) though I don’t know many people who consistently shop at M&S as their primary supermarket and have still had my share over the years! Maybe it is that he is such a very recognisable (and tasty) chap.

  37. Janey says...

    After years of throwing big parties for kids involving bouncy castles, laser tab eff this year 2 of my kids birthdays fell in lockdown. We hung out at home as a family (of course!) played their favourite games, had their fav bbq food and toasted marshmallows on the fire pit in the garden and I set up an ice cream sundae stand with all the flavours and toppings and the birthday boy made sundaes for his siblings.
    Both kids said it was the best birthday ever. So it turns out I’ve been wrangling 20 kids on a bouncy castle for 2 excruciating hours and paying a fortune for it all these years for nothing!! Lesson learned!

  38. Aishwarya Arora says...

    Teenagers in India usually do this. All the friends catch hold of the birthday boy/girl, two three people holding the legs, two three more holding the hands and sway them for a bit. This is followed by giving birthday bumps on the back. As many birthday bumps as the years the person is turning. It is also very common to smear all the cake on the person’s face. It quickly turns into a food fight. Usually, they get two cakes, one for eating and cheap one for smearing on each other’s faces. College friends can be brutal! But it is all in good one, honestly. No one minds it.

  39. Ashley says...

    I turned 20 while living in México (I’m from the US). My sweet Mexican roommate woke up super early to decorate our apartment and surprised me with a chocolate cake. Of course, I had my face shoved into it (¡la mordida!) after she sang me “Las mañanitas”, the traditional Mexican birthday song :) Birthdays are a big deal in my family it was my first one away from them. Her sneaky planning made me feel so loved!

  40. A sister says...

    Oh, the picture for this post! It is just priceless! 😂

  41. Zsuzsanna says...

    I am hungarian. 39 years old. Birthday party? The last was when I was maybe 10 years old. It would be a tins of money to hold a party every year. We eat cake and dinner at home, housban, kids, sometimes the parents. Thats all.

  42. Katerina says...

    I grew up in Russia, but live in US now. My parents and brother still live there. Every year on my birthday they have a party in my honor. My mom cooks my favorite meal and makes an awesome birthday cake and they gather at the dinner table and celebrate in my honor. About 10 years or so ago, we started using Skype so I could “be there” as well. It’s bitter sweet though… . I have this awesome family that loves me and cares so much about me, but I’m not there with them to share the special moment… I started acknowledging their birthdays too by making them cakes and eating them on their behalf;)

    • Em says...

      Love this. I’m going to do this with my kids. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nina says...

      what a lovely tradition (although it’s a shame you can’t celebrate together)

  43. My mum started the family tradition of lollies at breakfast for birthdays! We have a bowl of lollies with candles in it which we light and sing to the birthday boy/girl. It’s a fun way to start the day on a fun sugar filled note :)

  44. Tara Sharp says...

    This year my birthday happened during the most stressful and strictest part of COVID. I’m in my mid-40s and would have normally celebrated with drinks and/or dinner with a few friends. But due to the stresses of COVID I decided to contact a local Gin distiller, Sipsong Spirits, and have them ship out bottles of gin and all the goodies to make fancy cocktails. They hosted a cocktail making class on zoom. The ladies and I all had a blast! It felt nice to lift their spirits (with spirits!) during the darkest days of COVID. It turned out to be a very happy birthday.

  45. MK says...

    I love throwing my own birthday party! For a milestone year I threw a Big Lebowski party where everyone was invited to wear robes and comfy clothes and I served white Russians; then we walked down the street to (you guessed it!) the bowling alley.

    • Meg says...

      This I can get behind… the Dude abides.

  46. Carla says...

    Oh I love this! I’d like to do it for my kids especially now that they’re just stuck at home.

  47. Mexico has one of the most heartwarming birthday traditions:

    1. You get texts + calls at midnight wishing you a happy birthday. Wanna level it up? serenade with full mariachi group outside your window singing “Las mañanitas” (the little mornings), a traditional birthday song, very beautiful and unique, by the way.

    2. Pastel. Birthday cake. Can be any type of cake you like, with the candles, again people gather and sing “Las mañanitas”, and sometimes the cake smashing.

    3. Favourite meal. Moms/spouses/family cook the birthday person’s fav. meals.

    4. Piñata! Piñatas, all colours, forms, from stars, to horses, to Spiderman or Cinderella, whatever the birthday boy/girl loves. Filled with candy (obviously chili or spicy candy too!) and again, more party and music.

    Oh and if you love it, tequila or mezcal for the adults <3

    • Kirsten says...

      I worked in Southern Mexico for a couple of years, and oh how I LOVED going to kids birthday parties there! It was so joyous – there would always be a big tamale-making gathering beforehand, where I was there was always an enormous tres leches cake, piñatas and music into the night.

    • Agnès says...

      absolutely! love these!

  48. Jesse says...

    It was my birthday this past weekend so I started a new tradition, I woke up early before the rest of the house and hiked a mountain by myself. A moment of calm to thank myself for the past year … The fog was so thick I couldn’t see a thing when I reached the top.

    • Evelyn says...

      Aww, I love this Birthday tradition.

    • Jules says...

      Happy Birthday! that sounds like a great way to spend it :)

  49. Amy says...

    I don’t usually feel comfortable throwing myself a party–but some reason, last summer, I arranged a big get together at a local pub. I just felt like I really wanted to reconnect with everybody and be festive. And it was a blast! But part of me was going, “That was your 39th. Why didn’t you wait for your 40th?”

    This summer, of course, nobody can get together at all. So I’m glad I threw myself a party while I could! Really it’s an argument to celebrate and connect whenever you can.

    • Laura says...

      I turned 30 this year, and last year I had big plans for what my 30th birthday party would be (a full cookie bar! perhaps not what many would consider “big plans” but I love cookies and greatly regret not splurging to have a cookie bar at my wedding lol). I was going to skip a party for my 29th and do the cookie bar for my 30th, because 29 isn’t a big deal to celebrate. But, last year my mother-in-law convinced me to just do the cookie bar for my 29th, “because you can’t celebrate turning 30 until you’ve turned 29, so that makes 29 a big deal”, and I invited tons of friends. And now I am so thankful she convinced me, but my 30th birthday turned out to be very low key (still lovely though) with COVID. <3

  50. Laima says...

    In Latvia people throw their own bday parties. Your friends would ask what are You planning for your bday etc. You invite friends either for dinner at home,restaurant, or for bigger parties somewhere else. And you pay for everything. Not many people would throw a party for someone else.
    But the more interesting tradition is that the person who’s birthday it is, is seated on a chair and guests would raise the chair with the person on it in the air as many times as the age they turn.and that’s for kids and adults.

    • Evelyn says...

      In Austria you also throw your own birthday Party and pay for everything. The party is either at home or at a restaurant.
      But sometimes you get a suprise birthday party :)

    • Santa says...

      Oh, how nice to see a fellow Latvian here! Just celebrated my daughter’s 2nd birthday. Raising the chair was a bit more exciting than last year when she turned 1 :D

  51. lauren says...

    A dear single friend of mine threw herself a 40th birthday party at a local restaurant a few years ago, and she actually created a gift registry for it. In the abstract that sounds pretty wild, but she’s been getting wedding presents, baby shower presents and so on for others for decades; I was GLAD to know that I could make her day by getting her, like, a little unicorn necklace (and I asked HER about a gift, she didn’t make a big deal about it). She also commissioned a seamstress friend to re-create the prom dress Molly Ringwald made for herself at the end of PRETTY IN PINK, and she wore it that night. Parties for me aren’t my jam, but I was incredibly impressed that she had the confidence to tell the people who love her what she wanted.

    • b says...

      I love this!

    • Agnes says...

      I LOVE THIS. I don’t resent it at all (truly, as it’s not the kids’ fault), but it does seem odd to me when I think about it that I have sent 6 kids presents twice a year for their whole lives (4 sets of parents for 16 years) and none of them bother to send me birthday cards, let alone a Christmas and/or birthday present. I will keep doing it because they’re my godchildren and nieces and nephews, but by God if and when I have kids I will take notes of my kids’ faithful gift-givers and throw them a damned bone.

    • Emily says...

      One of my dear friends who remained single in her forties threw herself a party (with gifts) before she had her hysterectomy! I loved that she decided she deserved the same presents she’d bought for wedding and baby showers for years. I think all of us were thrilled to celebrate her.

  52. Charlotte says...

    When i Started university in a different town I met people from all over Germany. When celebrating a birthday we started to sing every birthday song we could think off. Suddenly it was only me and one friend singing. The others told us -to our surprise – they didn’t know the song. That’s when i realized that there is an East German birthday song. My friend and I where the only ones from the former GDR.
    Eventually this song became our tradition. Now also my friends without GDR background sing a long.

    • Anna says...

      I love this!!

    • Anni says...

      Hi! Fellow German here (but Wessi :-)), just curious: What is the name of this song?

  53. Kate says...

    I love half birthdays and un-birthdays. I threw my husband a surprise half birthday one year and invited friends over (who handed him birthday cards cut in half) and we ate a 1/2 slab of ribs, halves of pizzas, and a birthday cake cut in half. It was HILARIOUS. I highly recommend half birthday celebrations – bonus if you sing every other word of the Happy Birthday song!

    When I was little, my mom and her sisters would throw us cousins “un-birthday” parties. We only ever all got together maybe once in the summer, so the aunts would split up getting gifts for the nieces and nephews and we’d have one big birthday celebration for all the kids. It was so special getting to eat cake and open presents with all of our cousins!

    • Katie says...

      My mom always called my half-birthday my ‘birt’! Love this :)

    • Nina says...

      Both of these are great ideas, making mental notes here :)

    • Lauren says...

      My birthday is in December, days before Christmas. My mother is a gosh darn genius and convinced me that it was cooler to celebrate half birthdays. Birthdays in June are a lot easier – pool party, order a couple pizzas, hang some balloons and call it a day!

    • Jane says...

      I LOVE this. I am living in Australia now, but from Oregon. Will need to keep this idea in mind for when we can travel again and our son can see his cousins!

  54. ANDREA says...

    My personal tradition: I never work on my birthday. It’s a day to do whatever I want. I love going out to breakfast, seeing a movie, going to a museum, etc. My husband can plan around what I am doing, but my deciding to do whatever I want is sacrosanct.

    • amen to this!!

    • Bedő Zsuzsanna says...

      I do that too!!

    • Veronica says...

      This sounds like the best.

    • Nina says...

      yup a very important tradition

    • Julie says...

      Same here. I just can’t do it! My first job out of college actually gave us the day off every year and after I left I kept it going. I always try to spend it doing something I’ve been wanting to throughout the year but haven’t been able to yet (usually alone until dinner)

  55. Ria says...

    Oof, life is far too fleeting to judge people who want to celebrate with their nearest and dearest on a special day! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I think it’s such a great thing! just didn’t realize it was so common in the U.S. so I’m thrilled to hear from some people that it is for them. I threw my own 40th birthday party, but my friends seemed to have their parties thrown by husbands/wives/etc. xo

  56. As a British Expat in Canada (Van Island) I have been surprised how many differences there are even between toddler birthday celebrations here and the UK!

    For example, in the UK you bring a gift to the party and normally place it on a gift table — then everyone pretends that the present-giving part of the party isn’t happening. No one talks about gifts and certainly doesn’t open them during the party! Then the birthday boy/girl opens the gifts AFTER the party and sends a thank you note to the present-giver to say what they liked about the gift. This is a logistical nightmare as a parent trying to keep track of what your child has torn open and from whom. So as a Brit I found it *Excruciating* to go to parties here, where not only do people open the gifts with an audience — but also identify what gift has been brought by which guest… argh! I will never get used to it! :)

    • Kristin says...

      Don’t worry, it’s excruciating for everyone. Also have toddlers on van island, maybe I’ll see you at a birthday party someday. We can cringe in the back together.

    • Chrissie says...

      I 1,000 percent agree. Watching children (or actually anyone!) open gifts is excruciating!! I’m American and I’ve always hated it!!

    • Charlotte says...

      Hi Hannah, I absolutely agree with you—-and I’m American who grew up with this tradition! Even as a young child I found it deeply uncomfortable both to open gifts at my own birthday party and to watch others do the same. Children’s reactions can often be unfiltered, creating an uncomfortable dynamic both for the birthday child and the children attending (and apparently adults as well!) Plus it always seems like a disjointed waste of an otherwise good time. I’m glad to know it’s not a tradition everywhere!

    • Stacey says...

      I’m American and we do gifting just as you do in the U.K. I think it is for the better as there is more time during the actual party for other celebratory activities and avoids potentially awkward moments…if guests bring gifts of largely variable value, etc…kids are brutally honest too.

    • LT says...

      I’m in Seattle now, and no one opens presents during kid’s birthday parties here. And parties are never at home, always at a park or a party location. And last 2 hours, that’s it. I grew up in DC and parties were always at home and were all-day events where the parents invite their own friends too and it’s a day of celebration. And the kid always opens up presents (and it is painful).

    • Carla says...

      I’m in Canada and we opened gifts after the party when the kids were younger (and lots of our friends did too). Once my kid turned five, she and all her friends wanted to open gifts during the party. It was a big deal to see what cool toys they got and then they all played with them afterwards.

    • Kiersten says...

      I may be the outlier here but I’ve always found the “opening presents during the party” bit to be almost thinly-veiled performative blackmail. It’s like the birthday kid’s parents are saying to the gift givers, “you’d better not bring my kid any crap/cheap gifts or you WILL be publicly embarrassed!!!” These same parents usually don’t bother to teach their kids m̶a̶n̶n̶e̶r̶s̶, er I mean to thank gift givers graciously, and allow them to run buck wild through the pile of presents. Yes I get that kids can get carried away etc but that is precisely what parents are supposed to do, rein in their baser impulses and teach them that we live in a society and all of us are therefore bound by the rules of polite society.

      This is why I strongly believe that presents should be opened AFTER the guests go home, and any doting aunts/uncles/grandparents etc who want to stick around for a private viewing of how much little Danny or Emma liked the no doubt extravagant presents they brought them can do so at their leisure. The rest of us who’d rather be waterboarded than watch little kids brutally and obnoxiously belittle any gifts that they didn’t find up to snuff can beat a hasty retreat!

    • Diana says...

      This whole business of throwing kids extravagant Pinterest-perfect birthday parties that get increasingly lavish every year is out of control. Maybe I’m just a shriveled up bitter old crone who hates kids, but years of being subjected to endless such parties and gifting without receiving any thank you cards or phone call or text of thanks, and being expected to continue buying expensive gifts even *after* I’d moved to a different country and could no longer attend the annual merry-go-round of endless kiddie birthday parties, not to mention Christmasses, has made me resentful of ppl who take others’ generosity for granted. This was driven home when my SIL called on Christmas Day yelling at me demanding to know where my niece’s Christmas present was the very first holiday I spent away from home at my in-laws, and the minute I told her it was already under the Xmas tree at her house, she promptly hung up on me without so much as a “how do you do”, or “Merry Christmas”. What made it worse was that I could hear the annual Christmas party raging in the background but not one of those jerks bothered to ask about me. I swore off gifting any of those ingrates so much as one red penny from that very moment onwards, and I quit missing home then too. When I announced that I was opting out of buying the 8 nephews and nieces Christmas gifts—we’re not even Christians, it was just a secular tradition (read: gift grab) started when they were little to get in on the festive cheer—and I was immediately guilt tripped, told I was being miserly, etc. Seriously the kids were all already pushing 20, not one of them had ever thought of getting me so much as a homemade card in return, and they were so well off there was not one thing they could ever want/need/desire that their parents wouldn’t have already gotten them multiples of anyway, so what was even the point of continuing the shameless annual gift grab?

      Ok rant over, lol. If anyone read this, thanks for listening! Sometimes it feels like the child-free by choice (like me) have a harder road to hoe than others, especially in child-centric families.

  57. Nathalie says...

    My husband told me that growing up his mother gave him birthday cake for breakfast and that it was his favourite tradition, so I grudgingly continued the tradition. After years of doing this I remarked to my sister-in-law how strange I found it. She just looked at me in disbelief and said their mother had always served birthday cake in the afternoons!
    My husband was pretty sheepish when he admitted that it hadn’t happened often. And it could have been the day after his birthday. And he might have served himself.

    • Maryann Moore says...

      I love this tradition and am going to start it in my family immediately. My birthday is next!

    • Angel says...

      Ha ha! But I love how your husband made it a new tradition!

  58. Celeste says...

    Adding to the chorus of Americans who throw their own party! While I am always grateful when someone offers to do it for me, I’m just as happy to put together my own. Last year I hosted a picnic and spa day at a ski resort for my birthday. I prepared the food, but my friends did insist on paying for my entrance to the spa!

    I’m turning 30 this year and am from the West—maybe there’s something to generations and regions as others have suggested?

    • Max Bennett says...

      I grew up in the UK and left 20 years ago, there were no caterpillar cakes then so it must be a more recent development?!!

  59. Anahera says...

    I’m born and raised in the Netherlands but have never in my whole life sent my mom flowers on my birthday…nor did I know about the existence of this, rather lovely, tradition. Although a ‘simple bouquet’ does sound awfully Dutch;)

    • Laura C. says...

      I live in London and the caterpillar cake is a bit of a tradition, but mostly just in the office, as a sort of joke. Kids probably have it once or twice in their childhoods. These were lovely to read but I suspect that like most traditions around the world, they still vary by community.

    • Stella says...

      Dutch gal here! I’ve never heard of that flower tradition either. But my Dutch relatives always congratulate everyone in the family for someone’s birthday. For example, I had several family members message me today saying “Gefeliciteerd” to congratulate me on my mom’s birthday today. I would get something similar if it were my brother’s birthday too.

    • Maryse says...

      Same here! And the ‘simple bouquet’ comment :-) :-) :-)

    • Loesie says...

      Same here! Never heard of that tradition either, probably much to my Mom’s regret 😊
      I have encountered people congratulating me with the party pig 😊. I’ve always found it rather odd.

  60. Tara says...

    My dad considers birthdays to be not on the date but on where it falls in the month, as in “the first Friday of August” or “the third Wednesday of December.” Maybe this is just because he can’t remember dates? I always rolled my eyes until my niece was born a year after my son and though they don’t share the same birth date, they have the same birthday in my dad’s eyes: the first Tuesday in October. It thrills him when the birthdates and birth day of the week align on any given year.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha that’s so sweet!

  61. Sarah says...

    I live in Austria and I always find it funny that they sing Happy Birthday in English. My children’s friends don’t speak English quite yet, but they all know that song!

    • Lauren says...

      We’re a German-American family in Berlin and my young children, who speak fluent English with a typical American accent, always sing, “Heppy Birsday tüüü-yüüü” because they sing the song most frequently in German-speaking contexts! And it’s nearly always finished with “Hoch soll sie/er leben”. It’s a funny cultural blend for sure!

  62. Jill says...

    Haha yes, as an Aussie living in the UK it’s taken me a while to come to understand the nostalgic place Brits hold for Colin the Caterpillar cakes! One Australian tradition at kids’ birthday parties is fairy bread, which is pretty much THE BEST FOOD EVER INVENTED. Sliced white bread and butter covered in 100’s & 1000’s (aka sprinkles). Cut into little triangles and served to generations of Australian children. Nutritionally it’s highly questionable and I’m not sure it would pass muster if someone invented it as a kids food nowadays. But it’s got such massive nostalgia value that everyone keeps serving it anyway, hopefully forever!

    • Maryse says...

      I’m afraid Dutch kids (and let’s face it, adults) have sprinkles on bread for breakfast on any old day :-). My favourite is to put it on peanut butter or on jam 😇

    • ana says...

      and “little boys” aka savloys. only ever at birthday parties!

  63. Diana K says...

    In Polish tradition instead of singing a “happy birthday” type of song we sing a rowdy tune called “100 years” that is a general celebration song for various occasions, basically translated to “100 years, 100 years, may he/she live 100 years… say it again, say it agains, a 100 years!”

    • Emma says...

      Sto lat!

  64. Liz says...

    My Australian brother-in-law introduced a tradition for us — 3 “hip hip hooray”s after we sing Happy Birthday. We’ve embraced it fully, and I’ve noticed how much more boisterous and fun the whole song has become. Nothing like shouting out a call and response “hip hip” “hooray” to liven things up.

    (Trevor Noah on the Birthday Song is hilarious, if you haven’t seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKzTKWvF8Qo)

    • Jade says...

      I didn’t know the Hip Hip Hooray was an Aussie thing!

    • Lea says...

      We do this in Swedish too!

    • Nicki says...

      Three “hip hip horrays” are also very popular in some African countries. Our family – especially the children – grew to love this tradition when we were living in Nigeria (I’ve also observed it in Tanzania and South Africa). Another thing I noticed is that it’s rare for Nigerians to stop after the “Happy Birthday” song, in most situations – whether kid or adult birthdays – people automatically move on to sing “How Old Are You Now?” as a second verse, before launching into the “hip hip horrays”.

      It’s like once people get started and voices are already raised, everyone just wants a reason to keep going with the celebration!

  65. Enna says...

    Our friend has a Partner from Cyprus. On her birthday He gets congratulation calls for his girlfriend. When i didnt understand, why they dont call his girlfriend directly, he explained that they do call her but also him for being with her.

  66. Rachel says...

    In the Netherlands when it is your child’s birthday, it is often expected that they will bring in “traktaties” to their school/day care. It can really be any sort of party favor but parents can be really creative with making a box of raisins look like a race car, or kiwis into frogs. I’ll never forget the night my husband, dad (who had just come for a visit and didn’t really expect to be doing arts and crafts) and I stayed up for hours and hours assembling candles out of bubbles containers. I tried to keep one as a memento but eventually my daughter found it and ripped it open because nothing is sentimental when you’re a toddler.

    • Lia says...

      They do this too in the US now, although the treats are usually in a bag with a cute sticker or something. We have to do it times two because even though we have twins they were born on separate days (and, even weirder, in different months!) despite only being 20 minutes apart!

    • S says...

      I have also never heard of the flower tradition, but I’m surprised no one mentioned the birthday crowns that the little ones wear here, in the Netherlands. Whenever I see a kid out with a crown they are so bursting with pride and joy, it makes my day.

  67. Miruska says...

    I am from Bosnia, and growing up we always either organised a party at our house or took kids out for cake (to a patisserie). When we were teenagers, my mom always gave us money to take our friends out for cake/celebration (I think an Italian reader said the same thing). Coming to Canada, I was very surprised that people don’t necessarily throw their parties or take people out, somebody else organises a party or a dinner/night out and people pitch in to pay for your meal/drinks. We also pull little kids’ ears up to match their age :-)

  68. Su says...

    Living in the UK, we cut cake at children’s birthday parties all the time!! And give the leftover cake to take home sure, all smushed.

  69. Dale says...

    Melissa! That’s not quite right! In the U.K. we always serve the bday cake at the party, sing HB and if the birthday girl/boy/other is old enough they cut the cake, we just don’t eat it! To be fair the cake in a napkin stems from the days of fruit cake, I agree it doesn’t work so well with sponge and buttercream!

    • In Korea, you eat seaweed soup for breakfast. It’s said to be really nourishing for moms who’ve just given birth. Something about blood production. Also, it just tastes good.

    • Melissa says...

      Serving it to me means to eat it right then! Not slice up to take home!

    • Gretchen says...

      I’m another who considered “served” to mean the food is presented on a plate, with a utensil, for eating right then. Stuff stuck in a bag to go home is just a party favor. A gooey one!

  70. Anni says...

    I love to read these comments :)
    Seems like each country has so many approaches.
    I am from Germany and used to invite people over for my birthday myself. Obviously we do not sing Happy Birthday as adults anymore, but it is a nice gesture towards friends and family to treat them with good food, drinks and a party :) My husband helps a lot on this day but I invite whom I like and I get to decide about food and decorations. On my husbands birthday it is the other way round!

  71. Mo says...

    It’s also a tradition in Denmark to wake up the birthday boy/ girl with flags and freshly baked buns and sing to them. I’m not Danish, so I found this out when my boyfriend’s sisters sneaked into his apartment on the morning of his birthday to surprise him. I was supposed to meet the family for the first time at a dinner later that day, but they ended up getting quite the preview. We broke up a few months later, but I think the family has permanently retired that tradition.

    • Samantha says...

      ohhhh my. i can only imagine the horror!

    • Maggie S. says...

      hahahaha oh dear! That really made me laugh, Mo!

    • Laura C says...

      Also if this was their tradition, then how could he not have warned you!? Wouldn’t he know?? Probably for the best that you broke up tbh!

    • Mo says...

      Usually you only do the wake up surprise if you live in the same household (you do this especailly for kids, but kids will do it for parents when they get older). His sisters were much younger and had just moved to the city, so I think they just hadn’t considered the possibility that someone else might be there ;) He was definitely not expecting it!

  72. Nigerian Girl says...

    In Nigeria it’s pretty common to throw yourself a birthday party. And if you celebrate with friends in a restaurant or bar, you’re likely to foot the bill all by yourself. People rarely offer to chip in, unless like me, you’re blessed with awesome friends. Also, some people never give you birthday presents, not even a card. They just show up to eat free food and leave. The entitlement is something else.

    Fun Fact: In my all-girls secondary school, we had a tradition of ‘beating’ (nothing serious, just playful smacking) a celebrant on her birthday to make her pay for all the hours her mother spent in labour.

    • Lia says...

      I love the birthday beating! I had two long labors…my kids need a reminder, haha.

  73. Kirsty says...

    Did anyone else get ‘the bumps’ on your birthday? Basically, your friends would grab you by your arms and legs, throw you up in the air, then bump your bum on the floor. You got one for every year of your age, plus one for luck. You just hoped your friends wouldn’t drop you.

    • Margaret Forsey says...

      Yes! Birthday Bumps! We did that growing up in Newfoundland, but I had forgotten about it! Haha. Thank you for reminding me!

    • Kamina says...

      In Australia we punch people in the arm…as many punches as the number of years old you are. Thankfully it’s not a widespread tradition; it’s mostly practiced by 15 year old boys. I remember going to school on my birthday and dreading the birthday punches you’d get all day long. By the end of the school day you’d have quite the dead arm!

    • Kelly R says...

      Yes, the dreaded birthday bumps. Here in the mainland of Canada ;0), the recipient would be held by their friends, or random participants, for a kick in the butt (using knees) for each year, and one for good luck. One time, a school mate ended up with a broken arm during a birthday-bumps incident gone wrong.

  74. Loren says...

    I went to one of those self hosted birthday parties in Germany! The birthday girl had baked a dozen different cakes and we all sat around the table passing around the cakes and chatting, {well, I mostly listened, because my German isn’t very good} eating slice after slice, while drinking lots of coffee. I confess I had three pieces and they were all exquisite, full of delicious cream and nuts and chocolate. It was great, but the party was in the middle of the afternoon and I felt queasy and tired for the rest of the day. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

  75. Julie says...

    Add me in as an American who plans her own birthday celebrations-I usually make plans with friends and my husband to go out for dinner and drinks. I turned 40 in April and my husband had put together a big 25+ person catered affair at a cute Italian place, but alas. Next year! Maybe!

  76. Emilie Walker says...

    One absolutely hilarious (and messy!) birthday tradition in Peru is to push the birthday person’s face into the cake after they blow out the candles! (then that smushed part of the cake is reserved for him/her when the cake is served). The first time it happened to me, I couldn’t breathe from having so much cake stuck up my nose!

    • laura says...

      I’m not peruvian, but we do this too. One time at a friend’s house, her family/friends pushed her face too hard, and we saw her tooth had fallen off in the cake :/

    • ale norris says...

      this is common in mexico, too! it’s called “la mordida”, of course :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, this is so funny!

    • Ashley says...

      Ugh, I’m Mexican and always dreaded the mordida—so messy!

  77. Allegra LaViola says...

    I’ve never heard of people NOT throwing their own birthday parties as adults in America (unless it is a surprise). Maybe everyone I know is just very empowered? Personally, I find it deeply cringe-y to throw yourself a real birthday adult party for anything other than a “milestone” birthday.

    • Calla says...

      Haha this made me laugh. Yes everyone I know must be very empowered too. I actually always find the opposite cringey as well, e.g. wanting a celebration but waiting for someone else to step in to throw it for you. I think if you aren’t going to throw your own celebration you need to actually be OK with not having one.

  78. Liv says...

    After my Italian-american family sang happy birthday in Italian, my Nonno would always yell, “WHO’S GOING TO EAT THE CANDLE!!” One day, to everyone’s amazement– my cousin blew out the candle and then promptly stuffed the whole thing in her mouth. We were all in shock. But my Nonno — who lived through World War II, poverty, and immigration– dissolved into belly-laughter, tears, and a child-like squeal that I had never heard. To this day, at every birthday, my cousins and I yell at each other to eat the candle which definitely makes newcomers think, “This family is crazy”. I love it.

    • Liv, your story made me laugh a lot–thank you :)

    • Liv says...

      aw, thanks Caitlin! I’m glad :)

  79. Elly says...

    My German husband will not celebrate a birthday until the day of the birthday. It’s apparently extremely bad luck. A lot of times my family will get together on whatever weekend is more convenient to celebrate a birthday, which is sometimes a few days before the actual day. My husband is very resistant to these and won’t actually say the words “happy birthday” himself until the day of :)

    • Emily says...

      I can concur with this. My German husband is the same way. Its tempting fate to wish someone a happy birthday before it passes!

    • Ann says...

      Same in Russia! It’s very bad luck to celebrate or even accept birthday wishes before the day of. Kind of makes sense after you get used to it (husband’s Russian) — not counting your chickens till they hatch, etc.

    • Ruth says...

      So true! I am German and I get nervous every time someone mentions ( usually Americans) they will celebrate ahead of their birthday. Or they will celebrate their children’s birthday on another day because „ they don‘t know what day it is“ 😂

  80. Nina says...

    It was a treat to see this post today as today is my birthday!

    I don’t find it odd to throw a party for yourself and look forward to being able to when times are “normal”.

    • Cooper says...

      Happy birthday, Nina! Hope your eventual party is a blast!

    • Robyn says...

      Happy Birthday, Nina!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      happy birthday, Nina!

    • Angel says...

      Happy birthday!

    • Agnès says...

      Happy birthday Nina!! Hope you eat a delicious cake!

  81. Sarah says...

    Does anyone do anything special for “golden birthdays” (the day when your birth-date and age align, i.e. turning 17 on the 17th)? A friend did a special international trip with her son on his golden birthday, but it was the first I’d heard about it!

    • Megan says...

      I have heard of golden birthdays as the birthday where you are supposed to receive something golden. My husband however had never heard of a golden birthday. When I relayed this to my assistant she informed me she had in fact heard of a golden birthday and later gifted me a golden elephant (note real gold) for my office.

    • Kate says...

      Golden birthdays were huge in my family! 9 and 10 are the perfect ages for them. They’re just extra special for some reason.

    • Emma Lewis says...

      I had a “champagne birthday” in my twenties, no one really knew what it meant but it was a good excuse to through a party!

    • Robyn says...

      I heard of this, although being called a ‘champagne birthday’ for the first time a few years ago. My friend had her champagne birthday and we all brought a bottle of champagne/general fizz, alongside the champagne cocktails she provided… Yikes. A very fun night, and a fun WhatsApp thread the next day comparing raging hangovers.

  82. The ear-pulling is traditional in Russia, as well. We usually pull an extra time to encourage good growth for the next year.

  83. Andrea says...

    One idea I loved in one workplace was if anyone wanted to celebrate their birthday, they brought in a treat for everyone that day.

    There are only upsides—only those who want to celebrate do, no one collects money or has cards signed, you get whatever treat you want on your birthday.

    • Calla says...

      Yeah I’ve always done this too! I think there was a period in my teenage-early 20s years when I would get sad that other people didn’t notice my birthday or do anything. Luckily I finally came to my senses and realized I had it backwards, that it’s totally in my power to do something special.

    • katie says...

      I bring in fancy donuts to the office on my birthday.

    • Nina says...

      We have a pretty strong birthday (or any other occasion) treats tradition at work, a week without sugary treats is rare (well it was rare before corona, now we’re all working from home).

    • Alice says...

      Oh this is a massive thing in the UK. You are usually responsible for bringing in cake/ doughnuts/ etc on your birthday!

  84. Daisy says...

    Coming from India, I can most definitely say, it is not a tradition to wake someone up at Midnight and cut cake. It might have been the commentor Niha’s personal experience and most definitely not the NORM. Cake itself being a Western Import/Tradition. While growing up in 80s/90s, I probably had 1 or two cake cuttings and it was a big deal. Cake cutting is just a more recent thing and not the norm

    • Komali says...

      Could it be a regional thing? I’m Indian too and the “midnight cake” is something my whole family has done for generations, well before I was born. We’re mostly night owls, so the tradition is actually that everyone stays awake until midnight, sings happy birthday, cuts the cake, answers texts/ phone calls (now FaceTimes and Zooms as well) received at midnight and then goes to bed. We also have the birthday person cut another cake the following evening, usually with friends or anyone else who wasn’t at home with them at midnight. Seeing as this is so familiar to me and I’m not related to Niha, this has to be a bigger cultural experience than just one person’s family tradition.

    • CL says...

      My husband’s family is South Indian and I celebrated my birthday last year in India. We took a family holiday weekend to a hill station – so we were staying in hotels. At midnight the family made me come over to their room to cut the cake!

    • Daisy says...

      Well that is the thing with over 1 billion people in India and a good proportion below poverty line, I don’t think there is any norm within India. For eg: My husband’s side don’t even eat eggs, so he had never had a birthday cake when growing up. Even now, when cakes are ordered for his nephews/nieces, it has to be eggless cake. Cake in itself was considered a luxury when I grew up and with no access to ovens or bakeries (if you grew up in a small town in 80s), moms used to attempt to make cakes in pressure cooker.

      In the last 10-20 years, things have definitely changed but still midnight cake cutting is not the norm and definitely I wouldn’t generalize that it is how it is done in India.

    • Nishika says...

      Thanks Daisy for expressing the same sentiment I had! My parents were both born and raised in Mumbai, in different neighborhoods with different cultural and socioeconomic makeups, and this was definitely not a birthday tradition! In fact, I distinctly remember on one trip in the mid 2000s, my dads neighbor gave us a taste of an eggless cake she had made by steaming it! Hardly widespread oven usage. There may be Indians lucky enough to share in this tradition but the reality is even getting to celebrate a birthday is a privilege and the experience of a few does not speak for the many!

  85. liz s says...

    I actually think it is common to throw your own birthday party in the states. It may not be a formal party but i think it very common to invite people over for drinks and dinner on your birthday.

    • e says...

      agree! at least I always throw my own lol

    • Mallory says...

      Agree! I live in SF and I would always throw my own if I wanted a party (and my friends would typically do the same). It seems like it’s more of an exception to have someone else throw the party, unless it’s a surprise.

    • Calla says...

      Agreed! It’s not like people are requesting gifts or decorating with big balloon numbers but I feel its the norm to gather some friends together and feed them.

    • Sarah says...

      In my friend group, usually the person having the birthday (or their partner) will organize/coordinate the celebration out at a restaurant or a bar, but the friends chip in to cover the birthday person’s meal or drinks.

      My good friend and I have birthdays close together, so for a couple of years in a row we hosted a joint party and added up our ages to call it a “59th” birthday, for example. We hosted at my place once and people dressed up and brought booze and desserts, and another time we all met up at a cocktail bar. It was a great way to get to celebrate without having to be the center of attention, or feel awkward about having a party for yourself as an adult, which gets a bit frowned upon by some. Plus, our friend groups are like a Venn diagram rather than a circle, so we got to introduce people to each other and see new friendships form!

  86. Hattie says...

    A friend originally from the Dominican Republic always makes pastel colored suspiritos (meringue kisses) which she puts in a ring around the birthday cake. They are a pretty addition to the festivities and a delicious treat when they melt in your mouth.

  87. Sadie says...

    My family uses the Waechtersbach-“You are special today”-plate on birthdays.

  88. Sian says...

    The crucial, hilarious information missing about the British birthday Caterpillar cake is that he is called Colin 😂😂😂

    Sadly Colin tastes pretty dry and stale in my opinion. I always think of him as the birthday cake work colleagues buy each other.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Colin! I love it hahaha.

    • Komali says...

      My partner’s family always has a Carvel ice-cream cake called Fudgie the Whale on birthdays! Colin is so much funnier!

    • Jo says...

      And the birthday girl/boys gets to eat the face which is made of solid chocolate!

    • Agnes says...

      I spent 20 years working in London and how many Colin cakes have I eaten?? Too many to count… hahaha

    • Alice says...

      Nooooo Sian, Colin the Caterpillar is the BEST CAKE EVER!!! Honestly, I’ve been craving one for the whole of lockdown- I think it’s because, as you say, it’s often a work birthday cake and it’s been so long since I’ve been to the office, ahhaa.

    • Lauren says...

      Sian, no! Colin the caterpillar is the only way! Dry and staleeee? What about his little shoes?! WHAT ABOUT HIS FACE SIAN? HIS BIG SOLID CHOCOLATE FACE. I won’t accept it!

    • NW says...

      I also have never been impressed by Colin, but you MUST try the mini Colins! They are the premium version of the Cadbury ‘Swiss rolls’ and so moreish!

      Also: Colin the Caterpillar was a bit of a middle-class thing, I think, and now kind of a running joke so teenagers/adults get one on their birthdays.

  89. Amanda says...

    I’m a Korean adoptee who’s trying to learn more about Korean culture and I recently learned about seaweed soup. Pregnant ladies and women who’ve recently given birth eat it because it has a lot of nutrients and it’s supposed to be really good for you and the baby, and this carries over into you eating a bowl of it on your birthday to remember your mom and all her hard work giving birth to you. :) On my next birthday I might make some and think about both of my moms, and all of the women who have raised me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love this, Amanda. xo

    • Nykole says...

      That’s beautiful, Amanda.

    • Jess. says...

      This is really lovely.

  90. Kat says...

    So interesting! Since all of these comments are from Europe, Asia, and South America, I’m also very curious on some traditions from different countries and cultures in Africa. I’m hoping you can highlight that soon, particularly with the movement to center Black lives and voices right now (something we should always be doing!). It’s been so sad to watch so many online spaces go back “normal” when everyone was loudly exclaimed that Black Lives Matter in early June. I am hoping CoJ can continue sustainably featuring voices and perspectives from Black folx moving forward. Thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, I hear you, Kat! thank you!

  91. Tonje says...

    Oh, I should have read the other comments before asking. Sorry. 😊 But so interesting!

  92. Tonje says...

    You never invite friends to your own birthday party in the US? Does that mean that someone else arrange a party for you every year? Like your boyfriend/husband or friends? Or is it a surprise when it happens? In Norway we invite people to our own parties, like in Germany. Fascinating difference!

    • katie says...

      I’m in the U.S., and as an adult, I’ve always thrown and/or hosted my own birthday parties, as have all of my friends. I guess occasionally, a spouse or partner will do the hosting.

    • Ronja says...

      I’m German and I’m also interested how this works in other countries, haha! It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t want to throw a party for themselves? Shouldn’t you be in charge of who to invite, when the party starts, where (if you even want one?) etc on your special day?

    • liz says...

      As I commented above, I’m American and I always throw my own birthday party and so do must of my friends. Sometimes, I would say it’s common for a person’s significant other to send out the invite for the birthday-person, but I think that’s more of an exception? (at least it is with my friends!)

    • Calla says...

      I think this may be more an individual experience. I’m from the U.S. and everyone I know pretty much arranges their own celebration, whether its a party or just meeting up for a drink. Occasionally someone else will offer to organize but I find that’s more the exception.

  93. Christina says...

    In Sweden we do like the Danes and decorate with our flag and/or other decorations in the colours of the flag, such as napkins, balloons or ribbons for birthdays. Also for graduations and other festivities. In fact, an American friend once commented that we decorate with our flag for all occasions except our National Day (which is new and without traditions so nobody knows what to do!)

  94. Kerry says...

    I’m Nova Scotian and I’ve never heard of a buttered nose, that is truly bizarre.

    • Thank you for sharing this :) I think this might be very regional tradition- growing up in Nova Scotia this had always been one of my families tradition but as we got older and started having birthday parties with friends and moved around I quickly realized that this was not practiced everywhere!

    • Courtney says...

      That’s funny – I’m Nova Scotian and I can’t think of a single birthday party I went to as a kid that didn’t involve buttering the birthday girl or boy’s nose! Even our family album is full of buttered noses! :)

  95. Lendy Salazar says...

    I love the idea of throwing your own party! The comments are funny about us Americans waiting for someone else to do it—pretty much! My 7 year old daughter and I took turns reading this post and she loved the caterpillar cake and will skip on the buttered nose & ear pulling! haha! We love playing the person’s favorite song really loud to wake them up.

    xoxo
    Lendy

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      cute that you read it with your seven-year-old daughter! xoxo

  96. Joanna F says...

    I love the tradition where you send your Mom flowers on YOUR birthday.
    I think I read about it on CoJ a few years ago and I began sending my (american) Mom flowers on every one of my birthdays ever since. It really is her day as much as mine!

    • Nicole says...

      That’s so cute! I always tell my mom happy anniversary on my birthday

    • liz says...

      “happy anniversary” is so cute too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this comment thread is so sweet! yes, Joanna F., a Filipino reader had written years ago to say she sent flowers to her mother on her birthday:
      https://cupofjo.com/2013/01/happy-birthday-lucy/

    • Rosemarie says...

      I do, too, and I’m going to send my mom flowers for my next one. :-)

  97. Abbe says...

    Another tradition that is common in South Asia (at least, based on my experiences growing up in a Sri Lankan Tamil household in the U.S. and then living in India for a few years as an adult) is that after the birthday person cuts the cake they feed bits of it to family/close friends and get fed in return. Usually this devolves into getting cake smeared all over your face — I have one aunt who is especially devious when it comes to this!

    Also chiming in with the chorus of Americans — I’ve pretty much always thrown my own birthday party!

  98. In Indian families, the birthday boy/girl gets fed little mouthfuls of cake from the parents, grandparents, maybe older siblings. It’s super cute. I get very teary eyed as an adult when I see an elderly mom feeding her adult child a piece of cake. OMG…it’s the best. Also, if our parents are not with us, a friend might do it…

  99. Emilie says...

    My grandparents pulled my ear for birthdays when I was a kid and they’re from the mountains of PA! I also remember a roommate getting me a caterpillar cake when I lived in the U.K. for a time. I was taken aback but also thought it was really sweet!

  100. Calla says...

    Wait do other adults in the U.S. not throw their own birthday parties? I always have and have never thought twice about it nor did I feel it was unusual until now.

    • Mary Kay says...

      I always threw my own birthday parties too, but when I got married my husband was all weird about it. I never thought anything about it before! If I don’t throw my own party who will?

    • Hilary says...

      I 100% throw my own birthday parties, Calla!

    • Mallory says...

      Same, Calla! Why would I wait for someone else to do it? Also, maybe I’m a control freak but I want to decide what I do on my birthday! Most of my friends do the same.

    • Calla says...

      Phew what a relief! I realize the main driver for me is to make it easy for people. I really just want to see my friends and family on my birthday and I feel that hinting you want someone else to organize it would just cause undue stress for that person. It’s also why I always make sure whatever I choose to do is either free for people or very inexpensive (this after attending one too many birthday dinners at restaurants I couldn’t afford where I was expected to help pay for the birthday girl).

  101. Jodie says...

    These were fun! Especially today since my Son is turning 10 on the 10th! Maybe I’ll give him a few pulls on the ear and butter his nose :)

  102. Maria says...

    So here’s a question from a Scandinavian reader: What’s the alternative to hosting your own birthday party? Like, do Americans just wait for their own surprise party to happen? Genuinely curious!

    • Lea says...

      I was curious about the same thing!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      It seems to me as if usually a partner or friend will throw one. But curious to hear from others!

    • Calla says...

      Not at all! I’m American and was pretty surprised by that as well. I suppose maybe people who have always had a partner are used to them organizing something, but in my experience most people either plan a party or just invite people to a dinner.

    • Arielle says...

      I live in NY and grew up in the US. In my personal experience, a friend, life partner, or family member will take charge on planning, inviting, and “hosting” for the birthday person. Oftentimes it’s not a surprise, it’s just that the work of party-throwing is done by someone else.

    • Katie S. says...

      I actually found that sentence odd…we definitely throw our own parties! However, if you’re going out to eat or drink you likely won’t pay for your own bill. Friends/family members do throw surprise parties, but they don’t happen that frequently and some people never get one at all.

    • A says...

      Interesting… I’m American and I always throw my own party! I think my friends tend to throw their own parties as well. Maybe this is regionally different? I live in California.

    • JP says...

      I’m American and have certainly planned and executed my own birthday celebration many times. Guess I’m just empowered like that :)

    • K says...

      I wondered the same.

      Great post though I’m a Londoner and we have always served the cake at kids parties.

    • Robin says...

      In my family and friend circle, the ones around you plan your birthday celebration!

    • Melissa says...

      Usually a friend or partner will throw a party! I’ve never thrown a party for myself, I think it’s seen as tacky but I don’t know why that stigma exists!

    • Samantha says...

      i always plan my own event, because it’s MY day and i wanna do what i want!!! also, i HATE surprises, and have told everyone near and dear to me that if they ever try to throw me a surprise party, i will leave the event upon arrival. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Claire says...

      I’m American and I think people throw their own birthday parties most of the time! Maybe 75% people throw their own, and 25% people are shy and their friends/family offer to instead.

    • Erin says...

      I think a lot of people throw their own parties, but it’s also common for a friend or spouse to organize it for you! I love celebrating the people in my life by organizing a celebration for them! It doesn’t necessarily need to be a surprise, they may know about it, but you are just taking the pressure off of organizing for them!

    • Maggie says...

      I always plan my own party and put my husband’s name on the invitation as if he planned it. *face palm emoji* So dumb.

    • jane says...

      If you have close people in your life it is common they throw a celebration for you. Sometimes just taking you out for drinks or dinner, or else having it at home. Personally I think it’s fairly acceptable to drop a hint like, “it’s my birthday next week!”, to give people the chance to plan something because otherwise people become very annoyed if you do not tell them you had a birthday! Everyone wants the chance to celebrate and to express simple love for our fellow humans and birthdays are one of the most socially acceptable way to do this.

      However it is also totally acceptable to throw your own birthday celebration, party, dinner, drinks, etc. Sometimes the people you know are lame, lol. I kid. . . ; D

    • Laura says...

      I have always thrown my own party (or not, if I’m not feeling it) because…nobody knows it’s your birthday unless you tell them! (And my older friends who do know my birthday are scattered around the country/world.) Seriously, how do these other party-throwers even find out it’s your birthday?

    • AG says...

      I’ve thrown my own birthday parties many times (even since partnering up!). Sometimes an elaborate, self cooked, dinner party, most other times low key bar karaoke.

    • R says...

      Wow! I’ve always planned my own party and if I didn’t, my friends (who are genuinely wonderful people) would never get it together to plan one for me. I also have never had a partner. I really resent the idea that it’s “tacky” to throw your own party. Why?? Because you have enough self confidence to want to celebrate yourself for one day? I think of it as a day for me to get all my friends together and do something fun (usually pretty low key). Everyone in my family and friend group has always thrown their own parties. I live in California as well, so maybe it IS a regional thing.

    • Mariah says...

      I’m from the US (New England) and in my experience, typically friends/partners/spouses throw the birthday parties – especially if its for a milestone birthday. Most of the time they are not surprises, but I have been to several surprise birthday parties. In my circle, I don’t think I’ve seen many people planning their own birthdays. As for paying, if I were to plan my own birthday, I would feel compelled to pay for everyone I invited (either to my home or out to dinner). Typically, when a spouse/friend/partner throws the birthday it’s typical for everyone to pitch in.

    • KJ says...

      Never had a birthday thrown for me since becoming an adult.

      I think it would almost be odd if someone did throw someone else a birthday…seems like it’s something in movies but not in real life.

      I’m from Kansas so it may be regional but everyone I know plans their own party!

  103. Jane says...

    Wow, this is like the butter-less sandwiches all over again.
    People elsewhere do NOT throw their own birthday parties???
    Love from Germany

    • Calla says...

      Not at all, I’m American and have always thrown my own party since I left home at 17. Most people I know organize their own celebration as well. I knew a few people in college who expected their friends to organize something on their behalf and it was always a little strained. Much more fun to just organize it yourself so everyone can enjoy themselves

    • Eleanor says...

      In the U.S. you might organize a birthday outing/dinner out for your own birthday, but usually the guests insist on paying for your meal. It’s always a silly ritual when the birthday person pretends to try to pay …

    • Em says...

      I’m American, and in my experience, it’s been more common that friends and/or partners will say, “Hey, what are we doing for your birthday?” and that conversation will result in plans to gather out somewhere, or have a home get together. I do remember being impressed at one of my good friends throwing her own (big) party one year. I’m 40 now, but I’m guessing younger people see it as way more common to just plan your own thing. Younger people are fixing/doing away with a lot of our culture’s tired habits, and I’m really glad. : )

    • katie says...

      I absolutely planned my own 40th birthday party this year (in January, pre-covid). It was a brunch in a private room at one of my favorite restaurants. Of course, I paid for everything and I absolutely didn’t want presents. I wanted to gather with all of my friends and enjoy the day.

      Two of my other girlfriend’s planned their 40th celebration as well; however, the pandemic swiftly canceled those plans. One isn’t married and wanted a big reception-like party where there was food and dancing and drinks (because honestly, besides wedding receptions and maybe some events, how often to do middle aged people get together and dance?!?). It was going to be fabulous. She postponed until hopefully next year. We all can’t wait!!

  104. Claire says...

    Empowered? Uh…okay.

    Today is my husband’s birthday and he celebrates with a lot of huffing and sighing. He’s nearing 50 and would be perfectly happy if I would forget his birthdays altogether. Not gonna happen.

    • jane says...

      I’ve thought about it and plan on celebrating 50 as a rebirth. It’s such a great marker of the mid-point of a lifetime especially when you imagine that 50 years have passed and now you get to do it all over again for very likely another 50, but this time with the advantage of experience. It’s a total rebirth. At least that’s what I told my very depressed mother when she turned 50. It puts a fresh vibe on it, imo.

  105. Payal says...

    It would be so interesting to read about remote learning around the world and get some tips. I love all the other around the World Series you have!

    • b says...

      Yes! And remote working, too.

  106. This post makes me miss the parenting around the world series so much! I still hope that one day that series will make its way into book form so I can gift it to expecting parents! ;)

    • Aliez says...

      Yessss!! I second that

    • Alison Briggs says...

      i miss it so much too!!!

    • CL says...

      Lexie I was thinking the same thing. I really miss the parenting around the world series as well. I am sure COVID would also add an interesting twist to parenting stories in different countries too. Can we take a vote to bring it back ;)

    • Sarah says...

      SAME!

    • Claudia says...

      I second that!! When I had my daughter (in France), a friend gave me a book called “Mamans du Monde” (Moms of the World), and it was so so comforting! As a new mother you can get so much advice and opinions about the “right” way to raise a baby, but you realize that this advice is essentially dictated by cultural norms and customs. What is taboo in one culture is the norm in the next, and the babies all turn out *fine*. So yes, it would be great to have that series in book form.

    • Lauren says...

      Great idea — would love this as a book!!

  107. Veronica Aguirre says...

    You can’t forget the Mexican piñata filled with candy. Here in Los Angeles it’s pretty common to add both Mexican and American candy.

    • Birthdays are not an indigenous African tradition so all birthday celebrations in Africa are foreign and adopted from Europe/ America including cake cutting. Traditional African celebrations included visiting the newborn and mother with gifts and celebrations around initiation into the next age set, marriage and death.

  108. Raquel says...

    In Mexico – you’re woken up to a serenade of the song ‘Las Mañanitas’ its a really sweet Mexican tradition.

    • Calla says...

      How sweet! I lived in Sweden for a year and they also wake up the birthday person with a song. Honestly it was way too much attention from near strangers for my 16-year-old self but I can imagine it being really nice if you’re used to it!

    • E says...

      Aww I love that, being woken up to a song is too sweet! My friends from Mexico always smash the birthday person’s face into the cake after singing at their birthday party! Not sure if that is also a tradition throughout Mexico or just in certain areas!

    • ale norris says...

      estas soooon Las Mañanitas que cantaaaba el rey david! my childhood summed up in one song :)